By Dan Walk
For the first time in the Tool City Wrestling Tournament’s 34-year history, the General McLane Lancers are team champions. And they’re every bit the definition of the word “team.”
The Lancers had just one individual champion — 152-pound junior Mike Sutton. Instead of relying on a few high-scoring grapplers, General McLane was solid from top to bottom during a dominant first-place finish on Saturday at Meadville Area Senior High School’s House of Thrills.
“Our strength is the team,” General McLane head coach Ryan Cook said. “With only having one champion at a tournament like this, that speaks volumes for how tough the team is top to bottom. They feed off each other. ... They expect as much out of each other as I do out of them. It’s just awesome coaching a team like that.”
GM concluded with 203 1/2 points, a number that was far and away the largest of the two-day event. The Lancers placed 11 in the top 6, including runner-up Joe Wheeling at 106 pounds and five third-place finishers, all from 160 to 220 pounds.
Ossie Bowers (160), Tyler Hendricks (171), Chris Laird (182), Alex Thayer (195) and Jake Baker (220) each took third. Keller Watkins (126) and Ken Stoll (138) were fourth, Hunter Hendricks (120) finished fifth and Ian Mallory (285) was sixth.
“These kids impress me every time they step on the mat,” Cook said. “I’m in an enviable position where I’m at. I’m at a great school district, I have great kids and I have kids that just want to go out and be part of a great team. They put on a show today.”
DuBois, which had a tournament-best three individual champs, finished first with 171 points. Boiling Springs followed with 165 points, Fort LeBoeuf was fourth with 162 1/2 and 2012 Tool City winner McDowell was fifth with 154 1/2.
All five teams competed in the King of the Mountain tournament three weeks ago at Central Mountain High School. The Lancers placed behind both LeBoeuf and McDowell, but they wouldn’t be denied at Tool City.
Sutton worked hard to earn a 5-1 decision over Cathedral Prep’s Dan Krysiak in the final. A Somerset transfer, Sutton tallied takedowns in the first and third rounds for the victory. He was champing at the bit at Tool City after missing the King of the Mountain Tournament due to injury.
“It was nice because I was able to prove to myself that I can keep up with everyone else,” Sutton said. “A lot of hard work was put into it. And it’s a great accomplishment.”
The stellar tournament continues a great start to the 2012-13 campaign for GM, which already has victories over the Bison and Trojans, who were last season’s District 10 Class AA and AAA champions, respectively.
Brown, Reynolds pace Panthers
Saegertown was one of four schools with multiple champions. Devin Brown, a 106-pound Steubenville, Ohio, transfer, and Dylan Reynolds, a 182-pound Cambridge Springs transfer, each won their respective weight classes.
Brown overcame early troubles to pin Wheeling in 3:52. First, Wheeling was awarded a takedown in the first period, only for the referees to wipe his two points off the scoreboard. Then, in the second period, Wheeling leaped ahead with three near-fall points.
Brown quickly reversed the action to make it 3-2 before putting a leg in and using a crossface to put Wheeling onto his back. With 7.6 seconds left in the second period, Saegertown’s sophomore won by fall.
Brown has lost just once this year — a 7-1 decision in the 106-pound final of the highly-touted Powerade Tournament. Otherwise, he hasn’t trailed this season and was ready and willing to overcome his deficit to Wheeling on Saturday.
“If somebody scores a point on you, you just have to get yourself fired up,” Brown said. “The adrenaline just took over.”
Reynolds, meanwhile, worked hard on Saturday to earn a 9-3 decision in the semifinals and 5-3 decision in the final over DuBois’ Shane Marshall at 182. Reynolds constantly pushed the pace, leaving his opponents very little chances to score any offensive points.
“It’s a great feeling,” Reynolds said. “I really like the new school since I transfered this year. I’m just working hard every day and improving to get better.”
Reynolds’ victory helped Saegertown vault Cochranton and finish seventh overall with 113 1/2 points.
Cardinals’ trio falls it finals
Cochranton was tied for second with three Tool City finalists. Yet, none of them were able to finish on top.
Coming closest to the crown was 2012 champion Cam Cyphert, who battled into overtime with Fort LeBoeuf’s Evan Daley. Daley and Cyphert are the top two 220-pounders in the state on most Pennsylvania ranking systems, and the bout lived up to its highly-anticipated billing.
Both wrestlers scored takedowns at the edge of the mat and both totaled two escapes throughout the bout to take a 4-4 score into overtime. That’s when Daley went in on a big shot with 13 seconds left in OT that Cyphert couldn’t stop.
Daley earned the 6-4 overtime decision, which left Cyphert unhappy with his finals performance for the second straight year. He was less-than-excited after winning last year’s 220-pound Tool City crown by a 1-0 decision.
“Horrible,” is how Cyphert described his finals performance on Saturday. “I wasn’t on my attacks enough. I just got out-wrestled.”
Cyphert and Daley, both Clarion University bound, have created quite the friendly rivalrly. Daley went 2-1 against Cyphert in last year’s postseason, and he’s one up on Cyphert so far this season.
“Give it to Evan, he out-wrestled me and that’s the way it is,” Cyphert said. “It’s just another excuse to get better. I’ll wrestle him two or three more times hopefully. I’d rather it happen (now) than at Hershey or districts or regionals.”
Cyphert’s teammates, 145-pounder Robert Boozer, and 170-pounder Austin Andrews, each lost major decisions in their finals bouts. Clearfield’s Nolan Barger earned a 12-2 major over Boozer, while DuBois’ Tom Sleigh managed an 8-0 major over Andrews.
Cochranton finished eighth in the team standings with 111 points.
Rockets’ Lee cruises to title
Titusville finished in next-to-last place as a team, but the good news is that the Rockets were one of nine schools to crown an individual champion. Ehrin Lee became the first Titusville wrestler to win a Tool City title since Todd Mowrey did it in both 2001 and 2002.
Lee, who beat DuBois’ Mike Kennelly with a 14-2 major decision at 160 pounds, concluded the tournament in a bittersweet way as Titusville’s only Tool City place-winner this year.
“I was kind of disappointed that more of us didn’t place this year,” Lee said. “At least somebody knows that Titusville was here.”
Lee was dominant during the final two rounds of his final. He scored eight near-fall points in the second period and managed six more points in the third.
Bulldogs look toward future
After 2012 graduate Zach Towers won a Tool City title last year, Meadville didn’t have a wrestler in the championship rounds this time around. But it did have three competing for fifth place — and every member of that trio was victorious.
Aaron Ehrgott, a 106-pound sophomore, avenged a loss earlier in the year by beating Greenville’s Jase Paxson 4-1. Zach Luben, a 138-pound senior, beat Cochranton’s Brad Carlini for the second time in as many days. And 170-pound junior Louis Crawford shut out McDowell’s Kyle Rogers 7-0.
“I expect this to be a lead-in to the rest of our season,” Meadville head coach Barry Anderson said. “A lot of our kids showed what they had toward the end of the tournament. They were just picking up speed and doing a lot of things right.”
Luben was the only Meadville senior to compete this weekend. Anderson is already excited about what a more experienced Bulldogs squad can do at next year’s tournament.
“Hopefully, you taste a little bit of success and you build on that,” he said.